Day after day, the bar of how far men will go to justify misogyny drops lower. It isn’t enough that women are treated as second-class citizens in this country–the men in authority will also go to large lengths to justify how that is not oppression.
If you don’t believe me, a recent case being heard at the Guwahati High Court will change your mind. The HC recently observed that a Hindu married woman’s refusal to wear sakha–bangles made of conch-shell and sindoor (vermillion), as per the marriage rituals and customs, signifies her refusal to accept her marriage to the husband. Yes, go back and read that again slowly.
The court was hearing a divorce plea filed by the husband, and surprise surprise, they granted it to him. A two-member of the HC, comprising Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia, said the woman’s steadfast refusal to wear sakha and sindoor – the trappings of a Hindu bride – denotes her unwillingness to be considered married to her husband.
“Under such circumstances, compelling the husband to continue to be in matrimony with the wife may be construed to be harassment,” the HC held in its June 19 order.
Did they just say…’harassment’? Because she refuses to wear bangles and vermillion? And what about the actual harassment being meted out to the woman? Let’s hear the other side of the story.
The couple in question got married in February 2012. However, a month after the marriage, the wife wanted a separate accommodation for the couple, as she did not wish to live in a joint family. The husband then attributed her desire to live separately as the reason behind the worsening of their conjugal relationship. He also said they had frequent quarrels because she was unable to conceive a child.
So blaming a woman for not being able to get pregnant is completely justified but not wearing the ‘markers’ of a Hindu married woman constitutes as ‘harassment’? *slow clap*
The woman then left her husband’s home in 2013 and filed a case against him and his family members under Section 498A (husband or his relative subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Of course, the husband and his relatives were acquitted in the case by HC. Then, he went on to file his own divorce plea, citing ‘cruelty’ by his wife.
The woman contested the plea alleging harassment by her husband and in-laws for dowry. She also alleged that she was denied food and medical treatment and it was left to her brother to take care of her basic necessities. A lower court had earlier denied the husband’s plea, but the Guwahati HC decided to overturn the family court’s decision.
“The allegation of subjecting the wife to cruelty was not sustained. Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty,” the HC order said.
Once again, patriarchy wins because it is so deeply embedded in our country. If the judiciary can have such sexist biases towards men, do women in India stand a chance against such systematic misogyny?
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